The recent shenanigans that are being played out at the Berbice High School in New Amsterdam are most unfortunate to the students, their parents, the teachers, and the education officials in Region Six. Certainly the situation should not have reached the dire stage it reached as of Friday last. Students taking matters into their own hands, locking out the teachers and behaving in such a manner as I saw on TV newscasts were most unfortunate and unbecoming of our standards of education in Guyana.
The unwholesome writings on some of the placards were also of poor taste as many of them attacked Madame Regional Education Officer Ms Shafiran Bhajan and other stakeholders in the fragile situation.
Once again, Corporal Punishment (CP) has raised its head as it is the central theme in this controversy. The situation was first made public a few Thursdays ago on a call-in TV Programme through which no other than Madam Regional Education Officer Ms Bhajan was the guest. She heard the complaint made by a parent, I presume — and an angry one at that — of the incident whereby the teacher in question dealt the lashes to the entire class due to them not doing her assignment.
With so much being said, and a wonderfully-written Stabroek News Editorial on Sunday, February 22, 2009, I need not say much. I have not administered CP on a student in nearly two years. With that being said, it must not be interpreted that I depended on CP for disciplinary measures in the past. I did not. I have no authority to do so, unless I am instructed to do such by my superior(s). And I would most certainly never hit a student because they did not do an assignment. That contravenes the Policy by the Ministry of Education in the document titled ‘Manual for the Maintenance of Order and Discipline in Schools’. Though I am a strong advocate of CP, I am totally against it being used as a tool of punishment for failing to do homework or assignments. Lashing females on their buttocks is totally out of the question because the said manual stipulates that females must only be whipped on their hands—nowhere else!
Ironically, this is a learning situation for these students. They are learning a very wrong lesson here as the examples being set for them by other ‘forces’ are not in their best interests but are meant to buttress their own frustrations towards the government and the education officials. This should not be! Children should not be used as pawns.
Yes, we teachers work under some extremely ‘stretched’ conditions — I know — however, we need to be ever astute when performing our duties. If we intend on keeping CP in schools and in our laws then we ought to comply with procedures which surround its much debated and criticized use within our public school system. On many occasions, parents would come in school or at PTA meetings and beg us to “beat” their children if they get out of line or are recalcitrant but as teachers we know it is not our duty to. The manual does state that when all else has failed, then and only then can CP be an option.
I hope that after a thorough, fair and balanced investigation, the teacher can return to the classroom to continue her instructional pursuits which would, at the end of the day, benefit the students there.
The parents need to back off as their involvement along with their children’s is only frustrating the entire process. All parties, too, need to accept the pending decisions by the authoritative body that deals with matters pertaining to employment, discipline, and dismissal of teachers — the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
Leon Jameson Suseran